I Am a Hero

Vol: 22; Ch: 264
2009 - 2017
3.891 out of 5 from 1,282 votes
Rank #7,570
I Am a Hero

The zombie apocalypse has never been more surreal! A mentally unhinged manga artist witnesses the beginning of a zombie outbreak in Tokyo, and he's certain of only two things: he's destined to be the city's hero, and he possesses something very rare in Japan--an actual firearm! 

Source: Dark Horse

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I hope I don't come off as a snob, but unless you've read Max Brooks's World War Z, his survival guide, or even the graphic illustrations of the history of zombie epidemics, then I'd say you aren't really up with the times on how zombies have evolved from slow shuffling, fairly harmless ghouls out for brains to mad, frenzied freaks bent on tasting the delicious hide that is your own at any cost. Well, I guess won't go that far, but if you haven't read World War Z I would highly recommend it as it features some vignettes that "interviewed" survivors from Japan and how they escaped. But anyway... STORY: The story starts off slow, I'll tell you that right now. It isn't until chapter 10 or 11 that zombies start appearing. Up until then it's exposition of Hideo and his girlfriend, but mostly Hideo and his socially awkward, lateral-thinking 35-year-old otaku self. This manga paints a pretty accurate picture on the slow reaction time to the quickly escalating crisis that is the zombie pandemic. I Am a Hero has an author that knows his fellow countrymen and how they would handle a crisis. Let me tell you, I'm not knocking on Japan, but they haven't been in a full-out war in over half a century, whereas places like America have been sent into the field guns blazing every decade. So it's not that the Japanese rolled on their backs and didn't try when the zombie apocalypse hit, they just weren't prepared for something so sudden that could endanger their livelihoods in the form of people. Natural disasters, nobody's fault, if you die it's a tragedy. But these are things that look like people, that are people, and now they're trying to eat my thigh meat! What the hell, dude?! The fact that Japan is virtually weapon-free sounds awesome for those interested in a utopian society but when the dead walk among you it doesn't sound like such a good plan. Damnit, it's always something..! As Hideo moves from place to place he meets a revolving cast of characters that either want to impede him by being cruel and unkind and general dickwads, or stick to him because he's got a shotgun and every game we've played that involves shooting things KNOWS that a shotgun by itself has 200% more power than a standard pistol, and that's without upgrades! Accuracy and recoil is a bitch though, but you can upgrade that later at your nearest Work Bench or Fontaine's Upgrade Terminal!  Like virtually all zombie pandemic stories, there isn't a cure that needs to be found. I can't really remember any zombie-themed story where the protagonists actively searched for a cure, except maybe I Am Legend and that really doesn't count since those things aren't really zombies anyway. Hideo and his dwindling, expanding, dwindling crew are just trying to get the fuck out of Dodge and find a safe place to be, is that too much to ask?! Either way, it's very entertaining seeing all the twists and turns he must navigate in order to achieve that seemingly impossible, and most likely improbable, goal. CHARACTERS: I don't want to say "Asperger's Syndrome" (which I still use despite what DSMV-V may tell us) but Hideo does remind me of my fellow Aspies that were in my Special Education class throughout my school career that were also diagnosed with it: He always obeys the rules set out before him, doesn't make waves since he's comfortable in the routine, he is socially awkward and doesn't know when to shut up, he is very lateral thinking--Point A to Point B, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, he does weird things with his hands such as that thing where you lace your fingers together and wiggle your arms or just do weird hand motions that he's picked up from TV and stuff. In the beginning he also has a tendency to go on solo tangents to no one but himself but sometimes provides the voices to imaginary audiences that may be listening. Despite being 35 years old and a little weird, I still can connect with him on those fronts. Also, I firmly believe he is suffering from late-onset schizophrenia. Either that or simply hallucinations possibly brought on by stress or distress. Eh, I'm not a doctor, whatevs!  There are the helpless victims that didn't stand a chance, the poor people who followed whatever hand that led them to the illusion of safety, the nihilists that want to go out with a bang, and those few souls that see this as retribution for past wrongs to themselves. It's them versus everybody else and it very quickly turns into debauchery for those who only held onto that thread of humanity because society dictated them to. And in Japan, your outward mask is the most important thing you could have.  I think "Characters" would also be the proper place to describe the zombies: They're relentless and they can freaking RUN. Goddamnit some of them can run! What is unique about them is that as the virus/infection/bacteria/whatever spreads throughout their body their Id seems to be acquire a mouthpiece and they start spewing important nuggets of info, such as "May I take your ticket please?" "Why don't you love me?" "Mama..Mama". Well, important to them. Whatever thought that is persisting within them or has been ingrained in their psyche now is given the chance to come out. With a few simple words a victim's livelihood can be summed up in whatever they gurgle out or moan, and that's kind of sad, really. It's like the auditory version of that bum Nakoshi's ability to see the metaphorical "secret self" of the people around him in Homunculus by Hideo Yamamoto.  ART: What is simply fascinating to do is to find a page and flick back and forth between it and its follower, as there are times when it seems that you the reader have taken a snapshot, then another snapshot of the same scene a split second later with drastic or subtle changes to it. This I find is the closest you can get to a cinematic effect and it really does the zombies justice. One page somebody is driving a car, next page a hand is coming out of nowhere and grabbing them, third page the driver's head is being bitten into by a pair of massive chompers. Such artistic direction, much wow. When there's a large crowd of people or a lull in the action you can be sure one of those moments is around the corner and it's kind of shocking and surprising when they do happen. One moment a character is talking to Hideo the next moment their head is punted off by the low-hanging runner wheels of a commercial jet. Talk about "Woah". This further drives the fact that everyone is expendable, even the people that Hideo subsequently spends the most time with in his quest to, well, survive.  Another interesting move that the author employs every once in awhile is what I can best describe as a omnipotent point-of-view shift from watching Hideo and his progress to what everyone else is doing as this is all going down. This includes message boards online and letters and the like. You're so distracted by Hideo more-or-less taking care of himself that you forget that there are people without the chance to escape or the foresight to keep moving that they're sitting ducks relaying information to each other on the Net as everything goes further into shit.  The characters are drawn as realistic while still anime/manga as you can. The artist/author, Hanazawa Kengo, has his own style, but I think personally it sort of reflects Naoki Urasawa's hyper-realistic and detailed art style, just without the cross-hatching for shadows. For Hanazawa, the characters have specific features and are fairly easy to pick out from among everyone else, with little things like patchy facial hair, weeeeeeird eyes, a mole, hair style, etc. They look human and not simplified or "anime airbrushed" of what I guess I could call "weakness of photogenics", meaning "they have physical flaws but they're not important so we won't draw them in unless they're exaggerated". Yeah, that doesn't happen here, so everyone looks unique and embodies their own person, you know? The freaks,  I mean the zombies, are nightmares of themselves. There is no expense wasted in really jacking up these mofos to look as creepy and messed-up as possible. They're veiny and pale like those suffering from that weird virus in Emerging by Hokazono Masaya. Some of the "mutations" that people undergo during their transformation remind me of Apocalypse no Toride and rarely, Junji Itou's freaky stuff. Sure people are bitten and you get the neck wound, the bitten-off ear, a chunk taken out of the face, but then there are the morbidly funny ways that they got infected, like a man's junk was bitten by an infected lady. Creepy stuff. OVERALL: This manga at first seems like a slow-burner and for ten chapters, it's exactly that. At first you're thinking "Okaaay, I don't really care about this guy, when is the action going to start?" or "Dude this guy is such a nutcake, how is he ever going to survive what we KNOW is going to happen?". Either way, when everything hits the fan it seems to go like waves from a tsunami. Oh shit oh shit oh shit!! Whew..Whew Whew..Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit!!!!...Oh God, give me a breather..Hey that's inte-OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!?! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!! This is damned entertaining and if they made an OVA out of this I'd watch it in a heartbeat. Give it a try if you love zombie stuff. 


This may be the recency bias speaking, but I think this might be my new favorite Zombie Apocalypse story. It does basically everything I want an Apocalypse story to do, and has an incredible amount of depth in the character writing. I do have a few minor complaints, but overall I am incredibly impressed by this. Story - We start with a 10-chapter look at our main character's 'normal' life prior to the outbreak. From there, we follow him as he struggles to survive the initial outbreak, encounters friend and foe among other survivors, and comes to terms with the many difficult choices he has to make along the way... It's a very character-driven narrative, where the overarching plot is largely just a roadmap of locations the MC ends up, and the colorful cast of individuals he meets along the way. Partway through, we start seeing a handful of scenes in other survivor groups independent of the MC, and some of the impact they have on the world. Overall, I am very, very pleased with a narrative like this. The only thing I can find to complain about is that there are a few segments that felt a bit rushed, especially near the end, that I feel would've been more enjoyable if they'd been fleshed out a bit more. 9/10; One of the best Zombie Apocalypse narratives I've come across. Art - The artist has a very distinct visual style to their characater designs, and it can be a little offputting at first - one might even call them ugly in some capacity. However, I think this is a very beautifully artistic way of capturing the characters' personalities, as not only does he convey a great amount of emotion with their expressions, it also allows him to subtly change the characters over time to demonstrate growth from a visual perspective. Despite the initially-offputting appearances, I grew very fond of the designs by the end. Beyond the character designs, there is an incredible amount of detail in this work, with a very special attention to backgrounds. The colored panels every so often are a real treat as well. 9/10; I especially love the characters' smiles. Characters - As stated in the Story category, this work heavily revolves around the characters - as with most Apocalypse stories. Fortunately, the author comes through in spades for this category. Absolutely brilliant writing and incredible detail in every way, shape, and form. Every character fits squarely in the sweet-spot of having distinct personality, while still remaining perfectly believeable. Especially the Main Character; there are moments of weakness and moments of heroism for him that both feel perfectly in line with how he was portrayed from the beginning. 10/10; Damn near unparalleled in this genre. Overall - This is a masterful work of art that sits at (or at least very near) the top of its genre. This is the sort of work you point to when someone asks why you like the Zombie Apocalypse genre. This is the sort of character drama and narrative that feels like it would even please someone who normally doesn't care for Zombie stories. I'm in love with this work, and anticipate re-reading it eventually. 10/10; I need more!

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